What is The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show?

Published by Tamara Harrison - 5th Dec 2019

Have you ever wondered what The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show (AAVWS) is all about? Winemaker Bart Van Olphen from BVO lives in Mildura where the show is held. And, his wife’s family actually co-founded it! Keep on reading to find out Bart’s experience with the recent show.

AAVWS 2019 was a national show with over 800 wines entered by 220 or so exhibitors coming from 64 unique wine regions right across Australia. These are all wines made from non-mainstream varieties like some of the wines sold by Naked Wines – think Fiano, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, Vermentino and so on. I urge everyone to be adventurous and try some of these wines and try to drink wine that you are not familiar with and I promise you will be surprised and delighted with some of them. This does not mean you should forget about the wines we already love, but there are many more to get to know.

The AAVWS week starts off for us setting up the tastings that are done blind – no not drunk but without the knowledge of the judge what wine they are drinking. All wines are allocated to specific categories called ‘classes’ and tasted next to one another. The panel of four judges assessing the wines includes a chair, 2 judges and an associate or trainee judge. Each panel is thoughtfully put together to represent a diverse range of skills, backgrounds, and palates. There are 16 judges and one Chief of Judges in total who travel from across Australia and the world to take part.

Wines are scored as gold, silver or bronze medal winners or no medal. Then out of the golds, there will be one winner. Top of the class. ‘Top Gold.’

The highest awards given out at a wine show are usually called Trophies, the best of the best. They are judged across different categories and are selected from the highest-scoring wines for their category. Always at least a gold medal. It happens that sometimes that a trophy may not be awarded if there are no gold scoring wines that match the criteria.
On the last day, all the winners from all the classes go against one another, like the finals of sporting competition, and they go up through the ranks to vie for the title of Best Wine of Show.

The wines get tasted within their specific classes. This could be a varietal class, for instance where all the wines are made from Sangiovese, or it could be grouped together in a bracket of light reds. The last method is used to capture ‘other’ grape varieties, rarer grape varieties which might be the only one produced in Australia, so they get tasted against other varieties or blends which don’t have their own category.

Liz Richardson, one of the Naked wine winemakers, was an associate judge this year and worked hard for three days to find some gems. The 800-odd wines get split up and so Liz would have tried a couple hundred wines during the judging process. This takes skill to make sure you give every wine the time it deserves. Liz is a Mildura resident and I am lucky to have a few wines from time to time with her.

I also ran into Judy and Glen from Chateau Coco. Judy and Glen took out a few trophies last year and won the wine of show (the big gong). They have made some amazing wine and I hope you have tried some of these wines. Besides that, they’re just great people to have a drink with who loves coming to Mildura regularly for the AAVWS.

Last but not least another local, someone who has done lots for the region and has plenty of alternative wines in his range, along with many great classic varieties too; Anthony Murphy and his wife Nola were also along to enjoy the show. Anthony’s family winery has the most beautiful cellar door in the region located right on the banks of the Murray River.

Of course, we met lots of fellow winemakers but also lots of grape growers these are the people that make a winemaker’s life easy when they do a great job and not always get the recognition.

The week ends with the Awards Long Lunch where the winners are announced and we get to taste last year’s winning wines with some amazing local food.

It’s great to see that Naked has so many varieties in their portfolio to choose from and this makes sense as we have so many regions and so many different soils and climate conditions that suit different grapes. It makes no sense to grow only a hand full of varieties everywhere. Variety is the spice of life and, oh boy, we have that in Australian wine – I know because I tasted plenty of it last week.

Thank you for reading!



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